Premier John Horgan, with the Pattullo Bridge behind him. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Court battle over union-only Pattullo Bridge replacement workers continues

Case centres on government’s requirement that workers on Pattullo Bridge replacement project be unionized

The court battle concerning the provincial government’s requirement that tradespeople working on the Pattullo Bridge replacement project be unionized continues.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge confirmed that an “injunctive and declaratory relief” was not applicable but the petitioners’ application should be heard by the court rather than the Labour Relations Board, which the provincial government had argued for.

Justice Christopher Giaschi decided a challenge to the government’s legal authority to enforce its building trades only policy can proceed.

“We are therefore very pleased with the judge’s decision and are moving swiftly to schedule a week of hearings in October, subject to availability,” Fiona Famulak, president of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association, told the Now-Leader on Friday.

The minister of transportation and infrastructure imposed a condition, in a document entitled “Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project Request for Qualifications,” requiring all contractors wanting to work on the project to draw their construction workers exclusively from a Crown corporation called B.C. Infrastructure Benefits Inc., or BCIB, which entered into a collective bargaining agreement with unions affiliated with the Allied Infrastructure and Related Construction Council of B.C., or AIRCC.

The AIRCC in turn requires that everyone working on the bridge replacement project must belong to an affiliated union.

The petitioners object to this, seeking a declaration from the court that the requirement is a “unreasonable exercise” of the minister’s statutory power and runs contrary to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“It is my opinion that the claims for injunctive and declaratory relief in the petition and the claims invoking the Charter are to be struck or stayed,” Giaschi decided.

The judge concluded in his July 23rd judgment in Vancouver that the claims for relief under the Judicial Review Procedure Act “are not available” and need to be struck “as it is plain and obvious the impugned decision of the minister to impose the building trades only requirement is not the exercise of a statutory power” as defined in the Act.

The construction cost for the bridge replacement project is expected to be $1.377 billion. On July 16, 2018 Premier John Horgan announced that workers on the province’s large-scale construction projects will be supplied exclusively by building trades unions.

SEE VIDEO: New Pattullo Bridge expected to open in 2023

The petition claimed building trades unions have been “significant financial contributors” to the NDP, that these contributions are funded by union dues, and that the result of the building trades only requirement “is to force construction workers to support and fund the New Democratic Party of British Columbia as a condition of working on public construction projects.”

The case, Independent Contractors and Businesses Association v. British Columbia (Transportation and Infrastructure), involves a long list of petitioners.

They are the ICBA, Progressive Contractors Association, Christian Labour Association of Canada, Canada West Construction Union, the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce, British Columbia Construction Association, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Vancouver Regional Construction Association, Jacob Bros. Construction Inc., Eagle West Crane & Rigging Inc., LMS Reinforcing Steel Group Ltd., Morgan Construction and Environmental Ltd., Tybo Contracting Ltd., Dawn Rebelo, Thomas MacDonald, Forrest Berry, Brendon Froude, Richard Williams and David Fuoco.

The respondents were the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the Attorney General of B.C. (on behalf of all ministries in the province).

“We’re delighted that our concerns have been taken seriously enough to be heard by the province’s highest court,” said Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, in a press release, hailing the court decision as a major step toward protecting the rights of the “majority” of B.C.’s construction workers.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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